Half of Detroit Public Schools In Danger of Closing

Politics and a massive deficit have left Motor City in financial turmoil. Will our children be forced to forfeit their education?

A possible future for Detroit's parents, students and teachers (Thinkstock)

Further complicating the advancement of a cohesive plan is an ongoing battle between Bobb and the school board that has played out in court over who controls academic decisions made in the school district. The disagreement is currently focused on who will choose the next school superintendent—the school board or the emergency financial manager.

The matriculation rate for Detroit Public School hovers at 58%, but schools have shown signs of improvement on test scores in recent months. “The academic situation has greatly improved,” Wasko says. In fact, the schools recently instituted a program in which every student from sixth to twelfth grade has access to a laptop.

While some credit Bobb with reining in excess spending, the cuts and decisions have created ire among some community members, parents and teachers. Already, 59 schools have been closed since Bobb was appointed in an effort to harness finances.

Teachers and staff have felt the pinch with forced retirements, layoffs and pay cuts. “We’ve had a brain drain,” says Lisa Mayowa Reynolds, who teaches at the Detroit School of Arts. After only 10 years, she is now among the senior teachers on her high school’s staff. Two of her children have graduated, one is in high school, and her youngest attends a Detroit elementary school.

“I think something has gone really wrong,” Reynolds continues. “I think that public school works. There are districts where they are effectively using their money. Since the state takeover 10 years ago we’ve had access to federal funds. When you try to put a business paradigm on a public institution, it doesn’t work.”

“We have to be innovative with our thinking to offer Brown and Black children the opportunities that touch them holistically that give them a chance at life through public schooling,” Reynolds says. “You have to have everyone who is affected at the table. You have to have people who are doing the work. You have to have students who see gaps. You have to have a team of people who have a vested interested—student, community and teachers.”

Let us know in the comments section what you think it’ll take to turn Detroit’s school system around.

For community members interested in learning more, Bobb will answer questions at an educational breakfast “What Comes in the Next Year and Beyond” on the University of Michigan-Dearborn campus on February 18, hosted by the Michigan Chronicle. To RSVP, contact Ann Lampkin-Williams at lampkin@umd.umich.edu.

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  • Leslie Streeter

    Detroit Public Schools has been the Cash Cow for Outstate interest and Interlopers for years. Detroit was solvent when the first state manager was put in charge Adamany, This is a school system that consistenty had cutting edge programs that lead the country in Voc teach and reading recovery. This is the system whose teachers led the fight against Texas textbook companies to include accurate minority representation.
    This is the system where the teachers and students bear the brunt of reorganization and priv”Ick”tization. No one ever looks closely at the biiiiiiiiiig contrators who have bled the system dry and not provided the services outlined .
    This is also a city that has been hit the hardest with unemployment a state that has a middle class and highly skilled tradesman left idle by Bad national policy. We are Katrina in slow motion but we also are the canary in mine.
    When Detroit gets the Flu….the nation catches pnuemonia. An all the charters in the world are not the answer. Forgive our debt…sell it like tax credits…I am praying for Bobb …he don’t know pedagogy ( the court has sated that). He has ran out all the successful innovators to the point that it has created a vacumn in skilled educators and administrators. We must acknowledge that children want to learn ….Teachers want to teach….but in a city where we occasionally act like battered wives…he is not our savior. His failure ….. refusing to listen to educators and the demoralization of students and ancillary staff and the city…He does not listen…Just like Mubarak.
    time to go. His presecence here has been a lil schizoid( lay off teachers then turn around and within 3 months lament under staffing. Enough already!